Donovan Catholic’s maintenance crew members Kevin Downing and Nick Maalouf help Rob Dietrick of Community Medical Center, partially seen, load up a van with boxes of donated face masks. Courtesy photo
Donovan Catholic’s maintenance crew members Kevin Downing and Nick Maalouf help Rob Dietrick of Community Medical Center, partially seen, load up a van with boxes of donated face masks. Courtesy photo
Chenxi Mark Boa has raised the bar on what it means to be an international student.

Although he completed his junior year requirements in Donovan Catholic High School and returned to his native China in February, thoughts of how to help the Toms River community came to mind a month later as the needs resulting from the global COVID-19 pandemic increased. So he and his family sent 10,000 face masks to Donovan Catholic with the request that the school find a way to distribute them. School administration donated the masks to nearby Community Medical Center.

“As health care workers continue to face incredible challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, we have witnessed strength, compassion and, above all, kindness from our community,” said Patrick Ahern, the hospital’s chief executive officer. “Community Medical Center thanks Chenxi Mark Bao, his family and the entire Donovan Catholic family for their generosity, which will help to keep our team safe as they care for our patients.”

The ways in which parishes, schools, individuals and organizations form around the Diocese are stepping up to help others during the COVID-19 pandemic are many and unique with stories such as Donovan Catholic’s donation-making headlines in print, on the web, social media and by word of mouth. 

Much-Needed Supplies

Community Medical Center also benefited from another Toms River faith community when it received a generous donation of supplies from St. Luke Parish. Kathleen Muzzio, parish business manager, said on April 8 she was contacted by a parishioner who owns a nail salon offering to donate 200 masks and eight gallons of isopropyl alcohol “if we needed it.”

Knowing there are a number of parishioners who are medical professionals, “We were aware that some of the family of those working in the hospital were making masks and asking for assistance,” she said.

Along with the face masks and rubbing alcohol, the parish’s St. Vincent de Paul conference also made a large donation of muffins, rolls, bagels and cookies, all of which were delivered to the hospital by Father Robert Grodnicki, pastor, and parishioner Jasmin Alcid, who coordinated the effort.

Muzzio noted that the parish food pantry remains open, and several parishioners are sewing masks.

Feeding The Hungry

Making sure the less fortunate have food and water has been a priority for St. Mary School, Middletown.

For 12 hours April 8, students and faculty of St. Mary School collected non-perishable foods for Middletown Helps Its Own, a local organization that provides material and emotional support to residents in need. The effort was organized with assistance from school parent Colleen Naughton.

“It was a pleasure to work with my parents, who always step up in times of crisis. Many school families, as well as parish and community members, supported the food drive by making donations,” principal Craig Palmer said. “The one thing I always tell people is that we don’t do community service because it makes us feel good or because it’s the right thing to do, although these are good reasons. We do community service because of who we are as Catholic Christians.” 

Playing a Cheerful Tune

Residents in Care One, an assisted living facility in Hamilton, know they’re in for a musical treat anytime Joseph Kesting, a junior in Notre Dame High School, Lawrenceville, and member of St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Yardville, presents a piano concert.

With mandated COVID-19 restrictions prohibiting visitors, Kesting wanted to alleviate some of the residents’ anxiety, so he turned to technology to help present virtual piano concerts. 

“The motivation was to provide some happiness and reassurance to the residents through music,” he said. “Since visitors aren’t allowed during this time of social distancing, I thought it would be a good idea to bring the music to them virtually.

“It’s a good distraction during a difficult time,” said Kesting, who has played the piano since he was six.

Sweets from Scouts

At the beginning of March, the Girl Scouts in St. Rose of Lima School, Freehold, were ready to begin their cookie sales.

But when the pandemic brought their plans to a halt, leaving them with a large inventory of pre-ordered boxes, troop leaders decided to donate the cookies to the medical staff in Jersey Shore Medical Center as well as to other local front-line heroes. The Scouts have also been making cards for the senior residents at nearby The Manor Nursing Home since they cannot receive visitors.

The local donations were a “spur-of-the-moment project fueled by the need to do something to help during the pandemic,” said Elaine Turzio, the school PTA vice president and co-leader of the St. Rose of Lima Jersey Shore Girl Scout Troop 60754, which is composed of the Daisy Troop for kindergarten and first-graders, and the Brownie troop for second-graders. 

It was important for the girls, Turzio said, “to provide outreach during the pandemic, as we consistently strive to instill a sense of community in the minds of our girls, and an important part of the Girl Scout Promise, which is to be ‘helpful at all times.’”

Handmade with Love

Once Caitlin Zaccardo, an eighth-grader in St. Leo the Great School, Lincroft, heard about the shortage of masks for caregivers and those with compromised immune systems, she knew she and her sewing machine could be of help.

She first sewed masks for extended family members dealing with cancer and diabetes. Her efforts continued when she was contacted by Joan Kret, youth minister in St. Leo the Great Parish, asking for help in putting an Instagram message out to fellow youth members to look for ways to help their communities during the state shelter.

When Zaccardo’s idea of sewing masks went viral, she received a request to make 100 masks for two local nursing and rehabilitation homes. She met that challenge in a week.

“I plan to keep going as long as I need to help,” she said. “And if others start helping, this whole [virus] could stop spreading. People will stop dying, recovery rates will increase, and I can go back to school and see my teachers and friends,” she said. “By helping to bring this pandemic to a halt, we can all resume the things we love and see the people we love.”